Pressure on French presidential candidate Francois Fillon to pull out of the race is mounting as some politicans in his own camp urged him to drop his scandal-tainted bid in order to save the conservatives from defeat.

With opinion polls showing the conservatives that their candidate may be fatally damaged, some senior members of The Republicans urged him to pull out now to give the party time to find a good replacement.

Mr Fillon, 62, has denied wrongdoing after Le Canard Enchaine newspaper reported the former prime minister had paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for work she may not have done.

Falling poll ratings since then will benefit far right leader Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker running as an independent.

A poll of voting intentions showed the Socialist candidate, Benoit Hamon, also increased his share.

"I think our candidate must stop," Alain Houpert, a senator close to Mr Fillon's former rival for the conservative ticket, Nicolas Sarkozy, told Public Senat television yesterday.

France 2 television said it will broadcast extracts of a 2007 interview of Mr Fillon's Welsh-born wife Penelope telling British media that she had never worked as his assistant.

French financial investigators are also widening their probe to include two of the Mr Fillons' children, a source has said.

Mr Fillon himself pressed on with campaigning in the Ardennes region in northern France, telling journalists that he would concentrate on "questions which are of interest to France".

"I feel like someone who is being attacked unjustly on all sides. But I am ready to defend myself," he said when a few cries of "Resign!" rang out from a crowd.

French lawmakers are allowed to employ family members, but the suggestion Penelope Fillon did no real work has damaged Mr Fillon's image, and could yet put him in court.

Mr Fillon has said the work was genuine and will not stand down unless put under formal investigation.

He held an emergency meeting with party grandees yesterday in which he urged them to stick by him for another two weeks - the time he estimated a preliminary investigation would take to run its course.

But some appeared unwilling to give him that much time after one poll showed the hitherto favourite would be eliminated in the first round of the election on 23 April.

Another survey showed 69% of people wanted Mr Fillon to drop his bid.